Open House Ads

Here’s an oldie but a goodie…this post is 2 years old but I think it’s still relevant…

OK, this may sound like a bit of a rant. (some of you are saying…”what else is new?”) Open House ads in the newspaper make me crazy. Last Friday morning I called the San Francisco Chronicle and placed an ad in the Sunday open home guide for a new listing of mine. During this process I create the ad itself, stipulate it’s length and pay for it at the time with either a credit or debit card. After we had worked through all of the details they gave me a confirmation number for the ad. Just for your info, a three line open house ad in the Sunday real estate section cost’s $118.00..slightly more if you want bold type. Sunday morning I went and got the paper from the driveway, pulled out the open house guide in the Real Estate section and guess what…no ad.

Of course, I called the Chronicle Monday morning to find out what happened and had to leave a message because nobody could help me…I’m still waiting for them to return my call.  I know from several past experiences just like this that it’ll come down to one of two problems…1) They (or I) transposed a number from my ATM check card and thus it didn’t go through (they never call you back when that happens, and who knows why they just don’t run your card while you’re on the phone with them)..and/or 2) the ad ran in the wrong community or county, oops! I’ve finally come to this conclusion…who cares?

Here’s one of the great secrets of the real estate business folks…Sunday Open House ads are worthless and Realtors buy them knowing that full well. They do it to appease their sellers, who want to be assured that they’re getting their monies worth out of the commissions that they’re paying. Many sellers think an Open House Ad is critical and we resisit illuminating them. We don’t want them to think we’re cutting corners on their marketing so we pay it, sort of like hush money. With each successive year of Internet technology, print ads have  gotten more and more irrelevant. In spite of missing the Chronicle’s ad on Sunday I had at least 100 people at my open house. They came from the directional signs, Craigslist and MLSlistings open house guide. For the last 3 or 4 years I’ve asked people at my open houses how they found the place…90-95% say from one of these 3 options. It’s rare to hear anybody mention a print ad. Yet I see 10 and 12 line ads in the Chronicle every weekend complete with photos of the houses…I’ll bet they cost $500.00 or more. There’s no way they bring one single person more than a 2 line ad will…if they bring anybody at all. Obviously, this is a very technologically sophisticated area where potential buyers see new listings instantly via multiple on-line resources, print Open House ads are an anachronism.

Last year I had a seller who called me at 8:15 one Sunday morning when he noticed the Chronicle didn’t run our ad.(Sound familiar?) He was really panicked that nobody would come to the open house. We ended up with more people that week than we did the week before with the ad! Once upon a time Sunday open house ads actually may have introduced a potential buyer to a listing…can you imagine that being said now?


  1. Larissa says:

    More relevant than ever- needed to read this, Jim. Thanks.
    The ads are a shameful waste of trees!!

    Gotta admit tho- I still do like my newspaper with my coffee on sunday morning!!

  2. sounds like you need to be advertising with the examiner, not the chron, jim.

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